Ian Macdonald case another reason for a stronger ICAC

The guilty verdict against Ian Macdonald for misconduct this week underlines the need for a strong ICAC and further reform in mining. 

Mining is an area that is especially prone to corrupt conduct by MPs and ministers from both the old parties. ICAC have identified the granting and administration of mining licences as an area that is vulnerable to corruption.

Despite this, both Labor and the Liberals voted against my private member’s bill to reduce corruption in NSW by banning political donations from mining and petroleum companies

Donations from mining companies should be banned for similar reasons that donations from property developers are banned. Both industries can benefit greatly from government decisions and, therefore the perception and risk that political donations may sway decisions makers is very real.

Corporate interests do not donate money unless they want something in return.

My bill aimed to secure and promote the actual and perceived integrity of Parliament and other institutions of government in NSW. The community is highly sceptical of the integrity of politicians as a whole, after the long line of Labor and Liberal MPs - like Ian Mcdonald - exposed by ICAC over the past couple of years.

Donations declared to the New South Wales Electoral Commission in the period 2013-14 include over $1 million donated from resources companies in general to Labor, Liberal and The Nationals; lobbyists donated $1.8 million; Minerals Council of New South Wales donated $120,000; AGL donated $123,000; New South Wales Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group donated $106,000; Sydney Gas donated $71,000; Nathan Tinkler donated $50,000; Santos donated $38,000; BHP donated $26,000; Xtrata donated $27,000; Centennial Coal donated $19,000 and Gugarat NRE donated $24,000. 

Elections should be about the contest of ideas, not a contest of cash. Whether it is cash in a brown paper bag or buying a table at a fundraising event the community needs to be sure that politicians are not being bought.

We also need to implement stricter regulations and cooling off periods to stop the revolving door between government and the resources sector, which calls into question whether ministers, advisors and bureaucrats are working in the public interest or for private interests.

High profile moves through this door include current head of the NSW Minerals Council, Stephen Galilee, who used to work for former Premier Mike Baird; former federal resources ministers Martin Ferguson, became chairman of the Advisory Board of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) and a non-executive director of Seven Group Holdings and British Gas Group; and former federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane is now chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council.

This conviction shows the importance of having a strong and independent ICAC and it is shameful that the NSW Government has worked in recent years to weaken its body and bring it to heel. 

Photo: Nic Walker, Fairfax Media

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